The Premier League has begun moves to come in from the cold and allow the use of five substitutes in its matches.
The English top flight is the only major competition in Europe to limit substitutes to three, following Fifa’s decision to extend an emergency rule that allowed for extra replacements after the return from the first lockdown.
The EFL had been another outlier but on Wednesday decided to join with the rest of the continent and agree to an expanded bench. The changes will come into effect from Friday.
Premier League clubs have twice voted against increasing from three substitutes, with a majority of them believing such a change would benefit only the richer sides.
But at a meeting with league executives, top-flight managers are believed to have expressed a collective view different from those of their clubs.
Several have spoken publicly in favour of five substitutes, including some from outside the so-called big six such as Ralph Hasenhüttl of Southampton, Newcastle’s Steve Bruce and West Ham’s David Moyes. Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola have been particularly critical of the existing regulations.
Although extra changes may give greatest assistance to those with deeper squads, it has become clear that the congested 2020-21 season has created a higher risk of muscle injuries for all players.
Even for those managers against a new dispensation it will be clear that extra substitutes go some way to helping alleviate fatigue and strain.
The Premier League will consider the views of managers following the meeting. Although there is no proposed timing for a potential third vote, or a date for another meeting at which a vote could be held, it seems increasingly likely the topic will be broached again.
Changes to the EFL rules will mean that clubs in all three divisions will be able to make five substitutions, but whereas Championship teams will be expected to name a bench of nine players, those in Leagues One and Two will be required to name only seven extra players.
Clubs will be able to change players on three occasions during a match. This excludes any changes at half-time.